Glutamate receptor blockade in the rostral ventromedial medulla reduces the force of multisegmental motor responses to supramaximal noxious stimuli

Neurosci Lett. 2007 Oct 22;426(3):175-80. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2007.08.060. Epub 2007 Sep 4.


The rostral ventromedial medulla (RVM) has been established as part of a descending pain-modulatory pathway. While the RVM has been shown to modulate homosegmental nociceptive reflexes such as tail flick or hindpaw withdrawal, it is not known what role the RVM plays in modulating the magnitude of multisegmental, organized motor responses elicited by noxious stimuli. Using local blockade of glutamate receptors with the non-specific glutamate receptor antagonist kynurenate (known to selectively block nociceptive facilitatory ON-cells), we tested the hypothesis that the RVM facilitates the magnitude of multi-limb movements elicited by intense noxious stimuli. In male Sprague-Dawley rats, we determined the minimum alveolar concentration (MAC) of isoflurane necessary to block multi-limb motor responses to noxious tail clamp. MAC was determined so that all animals were anesthetized at an equipotent isoflurane concentration (0.7 MAC). Supramaximal mechanical stimulation of the hindpaw or electrical stimulation of the tail elicited synchronous, repetitive movements in all four limbs that ceased upon, or shortly after (<5 s) termination of the stimulus. Kynurenate microinjection (2 nmol) into the RVM significantly attenuated, by 40-60%, the peak and integrated limb forces elicited by noxious mechanical stimulation of the hindpaw (p<0.001; two-way ANOVA; n=8) or electrical stimulation of the tail (peak force: p<0.011, two-way ANOVA; n=8), with significant recovery 40-60 min following injection. The results suggest that glutamatergic excitation of RVM neurons, presumably ON-cells, facilitates organized, multi-limb escape responses to intense noxious stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Escape Reaction / physiology*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Kynurenic Acid / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / drug effects
  • Medulla Oblongata / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Glutamate / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glutamate / metabolism*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Receptors, Glutamate
  • Kynurenic Acid